After successful attempts over the years to change the Warrior series’ monotony by applying its formula to various licenses, like Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes, Koei Tecmo released Dynasty Warriors 9 on February 2018. The game brought an ambitious change in order to finally evolve the series: the open-world factor. It was a completely new concept for developing studio Omega Force, and part of the fanbase reacted negatively to the change. It’s highly possible Omega Force continues in this new direction for its next games, having learned from its beginner mistakes with open-world, bringing forward an even better experience next time. Meanwhile, here we are now in October 2018, with the release of what might be the parting gift for traditional Musou games, Warriors Orochi 4.
If you’re unfamiliar with classic Warriors games, also called Musou games, they’re basically action games where you ride into war, defeat thousands of enemies as rock music plays, starring characters and events loosely based on historical facts. Most maps consist of defeating enemy officers one after another until reaching the map’s boss. Warriors Orochi specifically, is a crossover series between the Warring States Era based series: Dynasty Warriors, and the Sengoku Era based series: Samurai Warriors.
Warriors Orochi 4’s story is the most surprising aspect about the game. By far, it’s not a masterpiece, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Omega Force tried its best to weave a coherent and interesting tale, and yet still full of service for fans of the series. The overall quality wasn’t a surprise anymore when I checked the credits, and saw Yoshitaka Murayama as the writer. Murayama-san was the director and writer for the first three Suikoden games. It is a refreshing point compared to most crossover media, which will satisfy themselves with a minimalistic story going “the worlds have merged and our heroes try to go back to their respective worlds”. This is indeed how Warriors Orochi 4 starts as well, with Greek mythology’s Zeus merging the worlds together, but the game has its share of cool moments and revelations.
The story follows the characters as they make contact with their past allies scattered in the new world, and try to unravel the secret behind their new reunion. Dynasty Warriors’ Liu Bei acts as the leader for the good guys, while Samurai Warriors’ Naotora Ii is more or less the main character. She’s part of the initial trio of characters you start with and has a lot of focus, something justified by her fan popularity. Naotora is also the first playable character to receive a Deification form, a new power-up introduced in this episode, exclusive to the eight most popular waifus and husbandos in the game.
As usual with the Orochi series, Warriors Orochi 4 lets you bring a team of three characters into battle, among which you can switch on the fly. You can choose a specific horse and four support characters as well. As you play and clear missions, you unlock new characters, customizing options and more. 170 characters are present in total, though a good portion does not play any big part in the story. Some are also only unlocked through optional side missions.
Each stage takes around 15 minutes to complete. There are also bonus assignments to complete to get more rewards, like defeating a certain officer before a time limit, clearing the stage without any allied officer defeated, or killing a certain number of enemies using one of the different magic types. Magic is the new gameplay element introduced in Warriors Orochi 4 along with Deification. There is a dozen of Sacred Treasures shared by the cast, allowing them to use different magic attacks. The Sacred Treasure a specific character uses is related to their skills or fighting styles. For example, characters who use water-manipulating attacks, like Samurai Warriors‘ Kai, get Poseidon’s Trident.
Each Sacred Treasure has three different types of magic attacks, each using the magic gauge differently. This magic system is a great addition, as mastering the Sacred Treasures is much easier than mastering all characters, thus giving you a headstart when playing a character you’re not accustomed to. Overall, magic allows you to rack up hits very easily, chain combos and break the guard of enemy officers. Once you get the hang of it, magic is very fun and breaks the usual repetitiveness inherent to Musou games. It’s extremely satisfying to chain up your combos and the various types of magic, filling up the Unity Magic gauge to finish up with the Unity Magic attack, the Kamehameha-like attack featuring your trio of characters plus the four supporting ones. Finishing enemies with Unity Magic grants bonus currency and experience, so you will be using it a lot. It’s a bit of a shame all characters share the exact same animation when activating it.
As usual with Musou games, Warriors Orochi 4 is quite easy on Normal difficulty, and random enemy soldiers only dare to attack when playing on Hard mode or higher. The traditional rank system rating your performance on missions is present as well, though I wish it actually showed the requirements for S Rank before starting the mission. As obtaining S Rank grants you a higher multiplier for the currency and experience acquired, it was frustrating to finish a mission, only to see the results screen notifying me I was a few seconds late for S Rank. Seconds I could have easily saved if I knew beforehand I had to finish the stage before that specific time.
Technically, the game isn’t bleeding edge graphically on Nintendo Switch but still holds up well. The characters models are revamped from Dynasty Warriors 8 and Samurai Warriors 4-II. Every single mission can also be played on co-op split-screen, without too much downgrade. This co-op split-screen mode is a very welcome inclusion, as while it is a traditional element of the series, a few past Musou games did not include it.
I played the Switch version specifically for this review, and the game is nice and smooth. Handheld mode makes the environments slightly uglier, but the characters models do not suffer much from it, and there are no annoying slowdowns either. It’s overall a great game to play on the go. The game also has an online Player vs Player mode, though I did not try it, as it requires Nintendo Switch Online membership.
With thrilling, classic Musou gameplay, new systems, and a fun story, Warriors Orochi 4 is a really great game that both fans of the series and newcomers can enjoy. It might be the ultimate Musou game following the same traditional blueprint Omega Force stuck with for almost two decades, as future games might all pick-up the open-world formula.